Today, U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) introduced the bipartisan Stem Cell Research Advancement Act, to ensure a lasting framework for ethical embryonic stem cell research at the National Institutes for Health (NIH), and to bring certainty to the scientific community pursuing research that could produce life-saving cures and treatments.
"The United States has long served as the world leader in scientific and medical innovation, and it is critically important that we work together to make certain the breakthroughs of ethical embryonic stem cell research, and the jobs they create, happen right here at home," said Rep. DeGette. "The Stem Cell Research Advancement Act puts in place the necessary framework needed to ensure this vital research is free from future political interference."
"We have the opportunity to treat, if not outright cure, some of the most horrendous diseases that people suffer from because of this research," said Rep. Dent. "We must make sure that this ground-breaking research is conducted within strong ethical guidelines. The Stem Cell Research Advancement Act will do that by cementing an enduring ethical framework for this critical research."
The Stem Cell Research Advancement Act would support embryonic stem cell research, and codify the NIH's guidelines for carrying out all human stem cell research, embryonic and adult. It also requires NIH to review its guidelines at least every three years and make periodic updates as scientifically warranted.
The ethical requirements defined by the bill mandate that stem cells be derived from human embryos donated from in vitro fertilization clinics that were created for reproductive purposes, but are in excess of clinical needs. The donated embryos would never be implanted in a woman, and would otherwise be discarded. The individuals who had sought reproductive treatment to begin with, must donate the embryos with written informed consent and without any financial or other inducements. The legislation also specifically prohibits the use of federal funding for human cloning under the NIH guidelines.
The bipartisan bill is widely supported by the stem cell advocacy community as well as leading health organizations who recognize the great potential stem cell research has for diseases and conditions faced by millions of Americans.
"Enacting the bipartisan Stem Cell Research Advancement Act would protect important and potentially lifesaving biomedical research. Human embryonic stem cells are now being used to understand the root causes of disease serve as a tool for drug discovery and in novel clinical trials to regenerate damaged tissues. The stakes are high," said Bernard Siegel, Spokesman for the Stem Cell Action Coalition. "It's imperative that researchers and doctors have all the tools in the toolkit in order to discover effective treatments to alleviate the suffering of adults and children burdened by chronic disease. This bill would finally establish a stable political landscape, providing certainty to researchers, patients and industry so that meritorious stem cell research can continue and flourish, under rigorous ethical oversight. Congress needs to act now."
"The American Diabetes Association believes this legislation is vitally important in continuing and advancing human embryonic stem cell research," said John E. Anderson, MD, President, Medicine & Science, American Diabetes Association. "The Stem Cell Research Advancement Act fosters promise for improved care for people with diabetes and ultimately a cure for this disease. We are grateful for the leadership of Representative DeGette and Representative Dent in sponsoring this legislation and promoting medical research, including stem cell studies."
Several years have passed since the original Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, drafted by Rep. DeGette and former Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), was passed and twice vetoed by President George W. Bush. During that time, the field of human stem cell research has progressed steadily. The Stem Cell Research Advancement Act introduced has been updated to keep current with the ever-expanding field of stem cell research and responds to calls on Congress to provide lasting support to this field of research.